Western fashion brands vie for Chinese consumers

Global Business

Year of the Rooster watch.

China is the biggest luxury consumer, purchasing almost a third of such products worldwide. With that sort spending, high-end brands around the globe have rolled out goods aiming to please Chinese shoppers, including China-inspired designs. 

CGTN’s Ge Yunfei finds out how successful the attempts of these brands have been to appease the Chinese appetite for luxury.

Western fashion brands vie for Chinese consumers

China is the biggest luxury consumer, purchasing almost a third of such products worldwide. With that sort spending, high-end brands around the globe have rolled out goods aiming to please Chinese shoppers.CGTN’s Ge Yunfei finds out how successful the attempts of these brands have been to appease the Chinese appetite for luxury.

Rooster, dog and monkey.  It’s become more common than ever for western brands to use animals from the Chinese zodiac in their designs. And not to mention Chinese characters, porcelain, silk and traditional paintings.
When facing the world’s biggest luxury spending market, no one wants to lag behind.

From Luis Vuitton to Victoria’s Secret, many Western fashion brands are trying to woo Chinese customers by adding more Chinese elements to their designs.

At a recent Victoria’s Secret fashion show in Paris, super models like Elsa Hosk and Kendall Jenner wore dragon-themed lingerie. But do Chinese consumers, especially the new millennials, like them?

This is just a sampling of the reactions we got when we showed pictures from the Victoria’s Secret to people on the streets of Guangzhou:

“Those designs just don’t fit these blonde western girls.”

“It doesn’t match her. But our supermodel Xi Mengyao would be perfect in it.”

“I think it makes Chinese elements more international. It could make the Chinese more proud.”

“I think it’s a little too dramatic.”

“Very cool!”

“It’s too chaotic to demonstrate a theme. I don’t like them.”

Judging from these reactions, it seems that this lingerie brand tried a little too hard to tap into the Chinese market. Huang Xiaoping, a fashion designer who studied in the U.K. for five years, reckons the reason for such misjudgments is the culture gap.

“When we watch western films, there are stereotypical items that are red or with dragons or phoenixes. It’s just the way they think Chinese culture is. They’re just trying to put their point of view in their designs,” Huang Xiaoping, a designer and the founder of Eye of P said.

In view of these methods that fail to appeal to Chinese shoppers, some say brands need to employ new tactics.

Chen Xiaoli is a part-time fashion blogger, and also runs a club of “elite women”. Chen says in the past, the fashion tastes of the Chinese were influenced by western brands, but times have now changed.

“In the old days, they gave and we accepted. But it doesn’t work that way nowadays. We don’t have to like what you think we may like. Now we know what we want, so it would be better if they would listen to us more,” said Chen Xiaoli.

Meanwhile, Huang, who will hold a fashion show in London this year, says there is something to be gleaned from what the big brands are putting out, as Chinese brands can actually learn from them.

“Actually, if you look at these things, the technique is very good. Many Chinese brands, they can’t do that technique. Even though like dragon and phoenix, they can put it in a very fashion way. Our Chinese brands, still have to work on it,” Huang Xiaoping said.

While many consumers are cutting back on spending, this is simply not the case for the Chinese. But it’s still a challenge for foreign brands to appeal to Chinese shoppers, who have never been so discerning yet divided in their fashion tastes.